Photo Credit: Avigdor Liberman's Facebook page.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman showing solidarity with Ashdod booth owner who stayed open on Shabbat.

The United Torah Judaism party joined the attacks on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) over his much publicized support for businesses that openly violate a new Shabbat labor law known as the Supermarkets Act. On Sunday morning, UTJ issued an official statement that was run by its three newspapers, calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu to discipline Liberman for his “deepening the public rift and undermining the sanctity of Shabbat.”

The Haredi parties are furious that Liberman convened a press conference in Ashdod on Saturday to attack the supermarkets act that compels retail businesses—other than food and entertainment establishments—to close on Shabbat.

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Although a coalition member, Liberman’s party voted against the new law.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) on Saturday slammed the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman over his show of solidarity with law breakers, and told reporters, “I am done with Avigdor Liberman.”

“Liberman brazenly trampled the Shabbat and crossed every line,” Deri said, noting that “Even one of the greatest haters of religion, [Yair Lapid’s late father Tommy Lapid who based his political career on fighting Haredi influence], did not dare to do this. Some things go beyond a personal friendship.”

Liberman visited the Big Fashion shopping center in Ashdod, in support of local residents’ protest against the forced closure of businesses on Shabbat. During his visit, Liberman said that the supermarkets act was meaningless and created a “split in the national strength.”

“Anyone who says that the supermarkets act does not have a meaningful effect is wrong and misleading,” Liberman said, referring to Deri’s assertion that, as interior minister, he does not intend to send out inspectors to enforce the law.

“What we see in Ashdod is the influence [of the new law],” he said, adding that “until recently they lived in Ashdod in harmony and now the city is divided by the supermarkets act.”

While in Ashdod, the defense minister also picked up a fight with national religious rabbis Eliyahu and Aviner, as well as with the Sephardi chief rabbi Yosef, for their comments against the IDF’s mixed-sex units.

Which suggests that, for once, the Haredi parties are right to appeal to the prime minister to curb his defense minister, before this thing evolves from street theater to a coalition crisis.

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